Simple Living: Overcoming Negative Inertia

Simple living is all about your priorities. It's about knowing yourself well enough to know what you value, why you value it, and what is less important. It's about making room for what is important by letting go of what isn't. And it's about using your time and space well, focusing your energy on the priorities and truly letting go of the rest.

This sounds easy enough, and yet so many of us struggle with finding this balance. If you've ever found yourself wasting time when you know there's something you could be doing that means a lot to you, you've been in this boat. I know I find myself there all the time.

When we find ourselves in a place like this, expending time and energy in efforts that don't matter to us, we can react in a couple of different ways. Two seem common, though. First, we can give up. If we're never going to have time to do what's really important, why bother thinking about it at all? Secondly, we can try to overcome our negative inertia by sheer force of will, pushing against what we have in an effort to get what we want.

What we rarely do is examine why we ended up in this situation in the first place. Yet, when you come to think of it, this might actually be the most useful reaction we could have. It's one thing to push your way out of a bad place, but quite another to figure out how to stay out of that place in the future. And staying away from those places usually involves knowing how we got there.

So how do we get there? How do we end up in that place where so much of our energy is headed in a direction we don't want to go? There are several common answers to that question.

We let the urgent rule.

That old saying is true: the urgent is a tyrant. Things pop up in life that need to be taken care of now, Now, NOW and we, being the good mothers and fathers and employees and citizens that we are, nod, smile, and take care of it. But we do this at the expense of our own priorities.

We let others dictate our priorities.

Your priorities are just that: YOUR priorities. Unfortunately, there's nothing saying that your priorities will mirror or even come close to the priorities of your friends, family, coworkers, and other around you. This creates conflict and, when you're in the minority, it's often easier to second guess yourself than to stand strong.

We're afraid to fail.

Some things worth doing are worth doing poorly. And the joy is in the journey, not the arrival. We don't hear those things very often, but they're true. Our culture lies when it tells us that every endeavor has to be an overwhelming success or else there's no point in pursuing it. But we listen to the lie, and so end up putting our efforts toward the things we know will succeed and leaving in the dust anything that might be more risky.

So what can we do?

Whether you're like me and you see a little of yourself in each of these elements, or you tend to major in one of them over the others, the hurdle towards a simple life focused on your priorities can seem like it's just too big for you to ever jump.

The good news is that seeing your hurdles not only in your mind's eye but recognizing them in the moment as they come up and realizing that you are, once again, not living the way you would choose to live, is the first step towards overcoming them. It's also, arguably, the most important.

So start to notice. Open your eyes to why you do what you do, why you spend what you spend, why you want what you want. You may be surprised at what you find. While it might not be pleasant, it's the first step toward living a simple life focused on your priorities.

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Guest's picture

Simple living is all about personal preferences, key is to start small. Letting go to stuff is hard but once we start, it gets better. I have got rid of many furniture/clothing/dvds in my life and still have tons to go, it is amazing, how much stuff can be well hidden inside the drawers. It is almost like shopping inside your home and finding neat stuff again, and it you do not think is neat, out it goes.

Guest's picture

Fear of failure, once overcome leads to a world of new opportunities. It's the topic of my main post "You're Rejected, How I Use Rejection To Motivate Me Every Single Day!".

I can't wait to live a simple lifestyle as you describe. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with this article! Negative inertia is indeed something we should all strive to get out of!

Guest's picture

Wise words, thoughtfully spoken. Thank you for much food for thought and study...

Guest's picture

Great article! It's so easy to get distracted and off course. I recognize my own bad habits in the three areas that you mention. Thanks for this reminder to be aware of the pitfalls so they can be avoided.

Guest's picture

Thanks so much for this wonderful article - it has answered what I have been wrestling with for far too long!! I have forgoten to live by MY priorities and goals - I will be saving this for frequent reading/reminding. You are blessed with great insight -thanks for sharing. :)

Guest's picture

Sarah, you are right in all you said. I know that all the things I do well now, I did poorly until i mastered them. I wasn't blown away by failure, I kept trying.

John DeFlumeri Jr.

Guest's picture

Truly understanding your values so you can set good priorities is key to the wise stewardship of any resource: money, time, energy and more. Great article!

Guest's picture

As you stated in the article, it really is amazing how much stuff we accumulate over the years and how long it can take to go through it all and find a place for it (outside of our home). :)

I have been pursuing and writing about simple living for about a year now. I'm excited about the changes that my family is anticipating for the end of 2010 which will most likely involve moving. We are prepared to let go of a lot of possessions!